Hank Member Spotlight: Ruchika Jaggi

Say hello to Ruchika, a civic-minded Hank member who made the most of quarantining during the pandemic and has no shortage of hobbies, interests, and ideas. 

Hear how her two sons introduced her to Hank, the way she spends time in both India and New York, and her passion for helping combat loneliness in older people. A regular at Hank’s coffee chats, Ruchika sat down to talk with Molly Wylie, a member of the Hank Community team and Ph-D candidate in Gerontology, about her drive to find social connection in every interaction with others.

Ruchika, I’m so happy to meet you! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

We're also lucky to have Hank. It's such a nice platform, and I just love it. It’s so great.

So tell us—what activities have you been to so far with Hank?

The first one I went to was in Bryant Park … it was a Latin Jazz concert, and there were seven or eight of us who showed up. It was perfect because it was a nice small group, so I got to talk to everyone. Then I tried one of the coffee chats, which I loved. Because then you really get to talk to people. And I think the goal we all have with Hank is to get to know some people. So that was really fun. 

What’s been your favorite Hank get together? 

Oh the New York coffee chats, especially this one we have in Chelsea. It’s this very open space so it’s easy to chat with everyone, and we always end up staying longer, much longer. And then we sometimes go out to lunch with a few of us. Whoever wants to come, it's open to anyone. It's a really nice group. I look forward to that every Tuesday.

That's wonderful. Before we hear more about your life with Hank, tell us a bit more about you.  

I’m originally from India, and I first came here to do my MBA at Virginia Tech. After working for a bit, I really started wanting to work in geriatrics because I found that I really liked working with older adults. 

So, I started a program for geriatrics at Westchester, but it unfortunately had to close because they didn’t have enough students enrolled. So, I interned for a while in a nursing home, working with Alzheimer’s patients, and then I ended up in a longer term career working with the government in Refugee and Immigrant Services. 

Now, I'm no longer working and I spend my time between India and here—I try to go to India twice a year, to see my dad and my sisters. While I’m here, I spend a lot of time with my two sons—they’re the ones who introduced me to Hank, actually! 

Tell me more about the geriatric program that you were trying to start. I'm a Gerontology PhD student. I've always felt that way, too—I've always wanted to work in aging services. 

I’ve always had a tendency to become friends with older people—like when I’m in India, I have a WhatsApp group of 80 and 90 year olds who I’m always socializing with. I love spending time with them, and they really have a lot of exciting things to talk about. The body is a little sore, but the mind is still active, and I know one day I’ll be there too.  And if you can appreciate it, you know, because one day we are going to be there too.

But there can be so much loneliness when you're older. Everybody's so busy in their lives, nobody has time for the older person. But if you really sit down with them, they know so much. I always used to wish there was a program that helped give people someone to talk to, because a lot of times I think you can help people if you’re just willing to listen to them. 

I think part of it for me, too, is that aging feels different here than it does in India. In India, when I go, everybody has time for you. Whatever they're doing, they'll find the time to sit and listen to you … and you just feel so much better. You may not have anything in terms of money or property, but still you feel happier and more content. I think that's what Hank does for people. It gives you that connection, that real life person to talk to.

You mentioned your sons found Hank for you—how did that happen? 

Yes! My sons are younger, 24 and 27, and they read all about this startup stuff. They live here in New York and sometimes come back with me to India, so they were the ones who were trying to find me friends here in the city when I was in town—which is hard when you’re retired and when you’re not even here full time! So they signed me up and that’s when I went to that first meeting at Bryant Park. 

And It's great. Now with Hank, I have my own set of friends. I mean, I had a few before but I've got more now. My kids have their own life, and I have my life. They don’t have to worry about me [laughing]. Because they used to worry that, “Oh my poor mother has no friends, how will she spend her time?”

I’m glad they’ve relaxed now! What’s on the horizon for you with Hank?

Well, a few of us started a book club and our first book is Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This. We’re going to meet on that and hopefully keep that going. And I’ll keep joining other activities, too. I feel that every event you go to you should get to know one or two people. 

If you could create your ideal Hank activity, what would it be? 

I think I would like to have a picnic or a dinner party. Make it fun. And then I want an event where you actually get to talk to people. I don't want everybody to run off, and I don't want to go to a musical event, because then you don't get to talk. I think in the beginning, I would like one of those kinds of events and I want everybody to leave that event wanting to come back or wanting to meet, you know, to get together with that group again. I want to do something they remember and think, I can’t wait to come back.

When you do meet someone at Hank, what are the qualities that you appreciate most in a person?

That is a hard question! One great thing is that all the people who come to Hank, everybody's trying to make friends, right? So, we all have the same interest. And we’re all at that stage of life where maybe we’re no longer working, or we have different life situations—whether we’re single, divorced, kids are gone, whatever. And it's hard to make friends at this stage, but now’s the time. So when I join an activity, I really just look for anybody who’s wanting to talk and have fun. 

And so far, it’s worked pretty well! I’ve only had good experiences. I’ve ever not felt like, “Oh my god, why did I come?” It hasn’t been like that.

How else do you spend your time, when you’re not traveling or at Hank activities? 

I try to volunteer when I can. Most recently, I’ve been volunteering at the Jewish Center. I was also thinking about having a group at Hank that can do some volunteering if there’s interest. It’s so funny, everybody has such different interests. Like we’re all thinking, “Oh, I never learned this, maybe I want to learn dancing. But I'm scared to go by myself.” In my next coffee chat, I want to ask, “What was one thing that you really would have loved to do but you never got a chance?” 

Do you know your answer to it already?

No, I don’t [laughing]. But I'll ask at my next activity! 

Read more about one of our other spotlight members, Karen, or join Ruchika’s favorite activities with Hank in New York!

February 8, 2023

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